Homeowners looking to install solar panels have been advised to exercise extreme caution after a string of scams.
The consumer rights group UFC Que Choisir says crooks are using a site called energiesolairegouv.com to dupe people into believing they are operating in an official capacity.
A video promises that solar panels will give households drastic cuts in electricity bills, with financial help to install them from the government.
Further clicks lead to a questionnaire, where you are asked to divulge if you own your house. Respondents are then contacted by telephone.
“A pseudo sales person gives you a well-practised and very attractive speech, promising big cuts in energy bills due to photovoltaic panels.
“And to install them, you just have to take out an easy loan they will arrange with their bank, which you will quickly repay thanks to the savings on the electricity bills,” says UFC Que Choisir.
Over the years, thousands of people have been talked into signing up for similar loans by fraudsters. They are left either with large loans which will never be serviced by selling electricity from the panels, or the discovery that the company due to install the system has vanished with the money from the bank.
UFC Que Choisir says the energiesolairegouv.com site has several red flags: videos are of poor quality, the name of the company varies from energiesolairegouv.com to Monsieur Energie in the text, and the propositions seem too good to be true.
In the mentions légales section, the site is called Le Site, rather than the name of the company, and the address provided is in the United States, which seems suspicious, given the nature of its activities.
Finally, many of the phrases used on the site are easily found with a quick internet search, suggesting copying and pasting of previous schemes.
The French government does have generous help towards installing photovoltaic panels, and the best advice is to visit its official website: photovoltaique.info/fr. You can also find further information at faire.gouv.fr, which details the help available.
Before signing any papers, the government suggests, check with its free tool: evaluer-mon-devis.photovoltaique.info.